Monday, July 30, 2007

Being Positive/WHO Health Care Ratings/ More On Mr. Moore/Pledge/Vonnegut

(P1) Political


1. Open a new folder on your computer.
2. Name it "George W. Bush"
3. Send it to the trash.
4. Empty the trash.
5. Your computer will ask you:
"Do you really want to get rid of "George W. Bush?"
6. Firmly Click "Yes."
7. Feel better.

PS: Tomorrow we'll do Dick Cheney......

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(P2) Philosophical

Model For Health Care: Let's Try France

Much has been made of Michael Moore's trip to Cuba on behalf of NYC 9/11 rescue workers who could not get the medical care they needed in the US. Granted this was "theater," but it does raise some interesting questions. The main issue is just where Cuba stands with regard to health care and why it does. Initially, when I viewed the World Health Organization's rankings (below), I was surprised to note that Cuba is ranked 39th, two places behind 37th rated United States. I dug in and found a scholarly article from the Journal Of the Medical Library Association (April 2002). Several things jumped out at me

1. In 2002, the US ranked #24 while Cuba was #33 in the world. Both have dropped since then.

2. However, considering Cuba's meager economic resource, it has "the highest basic life expectancy among all Latin Americans."

Granted, the following from that Journal article is from 2002, so I invite readers to provide more recent research. When I survey the more recent literature quickly, my sense is that health care statistics from the two countries are not too different from each other with exceptions including infant mortality rates and number of physicians per 1000 patients, both categories in which Cuba appears to have a better record.

Cuba, known widely for its excellent health care system, still functions under poor economic circumstances. The annual per capita gross national product in 1995 for Cuba was $1,522, compared to $26,980 for the United States. Yet, the World Health Organization's (WHO's) healthy life expectancy rankings place Cuba as thirty-third worldwide, not far behind the United States' ranking as twenty-fourth. Furthermore, Cuba is fifth in the western hemisphere behind Canada, the United States, Dominica, and Chile in the WHO disability adjusted life expectancy (DALE) rankings, which summarize expected number of years to be lived in what may be termed the equivalent of “full health.” According to these rankings, Cubans have the highest basic life expectancy among all Latin Americans [1–3].

Simply put, therefore, although few of us may want to live in Cuba (Eldridge Cleaver attempted this, became horrified, and moved back to this country), Cuba appears to put its health care priorities far ahead of where our own "rich" country does.

But let's get this straight...The United States of America need not look to Cuba for its model. That's a distraction that Moore's critics will pound on ad infinitum. Rather, I challenge our "leaders" and citizenry to look toward world heath care leaders France, Italy, and Spain as examples of what can and is being done to guarantee the health and welfare of its citizens. It's not an accident that Bush chose to pick on France (recall "freedom fries).

I am calling on each presidential candidate to pledge to refuse their free government health care until every person in this country also has it. I want every candidate who said they'd work for the minimum wage as president to work uninsured, too, until health care is universal. And I want the other candidates to join them. (Yes, I'm looking at you, too, Republicans. I know you can afford to do it.)

Michael Moore on Huffington Post 7-26-07

The World Health Organization's ranking
of the world's health systems.
Source: WHO World Health Report - See also Spreadsheet Details (731kb)

Rank       CountryView this list in alphabetic order View this list in alphabetic order View this list in alphabetic order

1 France
2 Italy
3 San Marino
4 Andorra
5 Malta
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Oman
9 Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany
26 Saudi Arabia
27 United Arab Emirates
28 Israel
29 Morocco
30 Canada
31 Finland
32 Australia
33 Chile
34 Denmark
35 Dominica
36 Costa Rica
37 United States of America
38 Slovenia
39 Cuba
40 Brunei
41 New Zealand
42 Bahrain
43 Croatia
44 Qatar
45 Kuwait
46 Barbados
47 Thailand
48 Czech Republic
49 Malaysia
50 Poland
51 Dominican Republic
52 Tunisia
53 Jamaica
54 Venezuela
55 Albania
56 Seychelles
57 Paraguay
58 South Korea
59 Senegal
60 Philippines
61 Mexico
62 Slovakia
63 Egypt
64 Kazakhstan
65 Uruguay
66 Hungary
67 Trinidad and Tobago
68 Saint Lucia
69 Belize
70 Turkey
71 Nicaragua
72 Belarus
73 Lithuania
74 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
75 Argentina
76 Sri Lanka
77 Estonia
78 Guatemala
79 Ukraine
80 Solomon Islands

(In the interest of space, I will spare readers the listing from 81 Algeria to 190 Myanmar)

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(P3) Poetical

Kurt Vonnegut in Breakfast Of Champions:

"He (Kilgore Trout) wrote a novel, for instance, about an Earthling named Delmore
Skag, a bachelor in a neighborhood where everybody else had enormous families.
And Skag was a scientist, and he found a way to reproduce himself in chicken soup.
He would shave living cells from the palm of his right hand, mix them with the soup,
and expose the soup to cosmic rays. The cells turned into babies which looked
exactly like Delmore Skag. "Pretty soon, Delmore was having several babies a day,
and inviting his neighbors to share his pride and happiness. He had mass baptisms
of as many as a hundred babies at a time. He became famous as a family man.

"And so on."


"Skag hoped to force his country into making laws against excessively large
families, but the legislatures and the courts declined to meet the problem
head-on. They passed stern laws instead against the possession by
unmarried persons of chicken soup.

"And so on."

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Curt Flood/ Stealing/Farming

(P1) Philosophical


by Jonah Raskin Chairman of the communication studies department at Sonoma State University -- (not to mention "Poet Extraordinaire)

The author Alice Walker, who has lived much of her life in Northern California, and written some of her best work here, has been known to say, ``Horses make a landscape more beautiful.'' I can see her point of view in the fields near my Santa Rosa home where horses lend their beauty to fields where they roam freely. For me, however, it is not so much horses as farmers and farm workers who add an aesthetic dimension to the landscape, though I know that's usually not their main intention. They work on farms, of course, to make money, feed and house themselves, and their children, and not to create a picture pleasing to the eye. Still, whenever I gaze at Valley End Farm, probably the largest certified organic farm in Sonoma County, on Petaluma Hill Road, I see it as an oil painting by a 19th-century French impressionist painter. The soft, gentle mountains rise in the background, a white house nestles under an oak tree, and the furrowed fields unfold on either side of an unpaved driveway that divides them into two nearly equal parts. I have worked in these fields out of a sense of curiosity, and with an appreciation of beauty, too. I know that a sense of beauty infuses the way the farm workers look at the farm, and I have seen that they cannot help but make the rows and rows of tomatoes, squash, onion and garlic into a thing far more attractive to my eye than the sprawling tract houses that threaten its survival, and the survival of farms like it. Recently, I worked with Leno, the Mexican-born foreman who speaks excellent English and who dreams of owning his own farm in California one day. When he's off the farm, I have worked with his wife Malu, as hard a tiller of the soil as he, and her 60-year-old father who has worked on farms nearly his whole life, but who has never owned one, and probably never will. Leno and Malu, and the other farm workers, labor at Valley End because agriculture is what they know how to do, and because they like to work with their hands, in the outdoors, planting and weeding, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. these days, and sometimes until 7 p.m. when crops have to be harvested. ``It's beautiful here, isn't it,'' Malu's father said to me on a June afternoon, as we stood in the hot sun, weeding around the tomato plants -- nearly 75,000 of them -- whose fruit Clint Grossi, who runs the farm with his mother Sharon, will sell at their farm stand along the side of the road at the height of summer. Many local residents, and tourists, too, stop here because they want locally grown, organic vegetables, and because they see the farm as a thing of beauty to which they want a connection. Indeed, increasingly this farm, and others in Northern California, have become locales that provide suburbanites with a sense of roots, and a sense of meaning in a world that feels more and more dislocated and chaotic. They know that the human species cannot live without beauty, and that living farms, where men and women grow beautiful, healthy crops, provide an aesthetic sense that gives them pleasure. So, when I stand in the fields, with a hoe in my hands, I occasionally pause and peer at the traffic on Petaluma Hill Road that looks, in the distance, like toy cars and trucks. Will the speeding drivers gaze appreciatively at the farm as I do? I wonder. Will they see the beauty, here, and will they come to realize that farms must continue to exist here, if we are to maintain our history and our humanity? I take up the hoe again, and, if wishing would make it so, it is so.

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(P2) Political (sort of)

Curt Flood On Issues Related To Slavery

When baseball great Curt Flood challenged baseball's reserve clause in 1970-71 he gave up his expectation of a future as a major league manager. This fight was more important to Flood who regarded challenging the restriction to play for only one team as a civil rights issue. When he won, he became a hero to his peers.

The following is a short excerpt from "Why I Am Challenging Baseball" by Curt Flood in Sport

"Are we right in challenging the legality of the reserve clause? Let me answer you this way. Suppose you are an accountant. One day your boss says to you, 'Joe, we are moving you to the other coast. Now don't worry. We'll pay your expenses, you'll get the same salary you're getting here, and maybe more.'

"'But I don't want to go 3,000 miles away from my family and friends,' you say. 'I don't want to tear up roots.'

"'Of course you can quit and get another job,' your boss says. 'But we've got this reserve clause in your contract, you know. You can't work ever again as an accountant if you quit working for us.'

"'But accounting is the only business I know,' you say.

"'Sorry,' says your boss.

"What would you do? As an accountant and as a man? You know what I am doing. Maybe now you can understand why I feel I have to do it—as a ballplayer and as a man."

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(P3) Poetical

The Base Stealer
by Robert Francis

Poised between going on and back, pulled
Both ways taut like a tightrope-walker,
Fingertips pointing the opposites,
Now bouncing tiptoe like a dropped ball
Or a kid skipping rope, come on, come on,
Running a scattering of steps sidewise,
How he teeters, skitters, tingles, teases,
Taunts them, hovers like an ecstatic bird,
He's only flirting, crowd him, crowd him,
Delicate, delicate, delicate, delicate

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Human Condition/Hombre/Backyard

(P1) Philosophical

Months ago, when I was despairing about the human condition and the dimming prospects for world peace, I wrote Peace Planters and discovered at least some reason to hope in quietness, reflection and families. Then I read James Hillman's quote about there having been something like 15,000 wars in only 5000 years of "civilization."

Today, reading the following quotations in The Sun, I've considered that perhaps war and violence aren't so much the human "condition" as they are the collective human "unconsciousness." If the so-called "primitive savage" has figured it out, what about the rest of us "savages"?

1. "People hurt other people the most when they're trying to kill their own pain, real or imagined." - Frank J. Page

2. "In the Baemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, about all the good things the person...has done in his lifetime. All his positive attributes, good deed, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. The tribal ceremony often lasts several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe." - Alice Walker

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(P2) Political

From Paul Begala in the Huffington Post July 3d:

One Tough Hombre

Tough enough to execute Karla Fay Tucker -- and then laugh about it. Tough enough to sign a death warrant for a man whose lawyer slept through the trial -- and then snicker when asked about it in a debate. Even tough enough to execute a great-grandmother who murdered her husband -- after he abused her. A friend of mine at the time asked Bush to commute her sentence, telling him, "Betty Lou ain't a threat to no one she ain't married to." No dice.

Mr. Bush is tough enough to invade a country that was no risk to America, causing tens of thousands of civilian deaths and shedding precious American blood in the process. Tough enough to sanction torture. Tough enough to order an American citizen arrested and held without trial.

But if you're rich and right-wing and Republican, George is a real softie. As George W. Bush demonstrated in giving Scooter Libby a Get Out of Jail Free Card, he is only compassionate to conservatives.

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(P3) Poetical

Backyard Appeal

Bluest sky moment,
I paint you as words
spring maple yellow.

Photinia bush
redden my flesh, be my sun,
rain memory has fled.

Mirror of sea,
sky unblemished blue,
sing your song.

Copper fields slip
green to cyan,
oxygen’s funny magic.

Black dog come to me.
Tell me what you fathom
beneath this our common ground.

(Ed Coletti in Blueline vol xxviii)